Gap Creek (Oprah’s Book Club)
“A story of a marriage from the Poet Laureate of Appalachia,” the publisher tells us, along with the – probably economically more salient – fact that this work was chosen for Oprah’s book club. That would make it easy to dismiss for us intellectuals who don’t stoop to reading such fodder for the masses, but in fact, there is much to admire about it. Setting and voice are particularly remarkable. The turn-of-the-20th-century rural mountain setting is so integral and integrated to the story that it becomes a character of stature equal to the narrator, the young, newly-married Julie Richards. The seeming effortlessness with which Morgan masters her speech, and the thoughts that that speech expresses, are more than admirable. The plot – daily travails of the impoverished young couple, including some lengthy wrenching scenes of physical pain – doesn’t break any new ground for this subgenre, but it’s well-written enough to keep at least some readers engaged. It’s rather long on tragedy to succeed in making the reader feel as uplifted as the author clearly intends.